Was Carlos Hathcock the Real American Sniper?
Being a sniper can be a challenging and complex responsibility. Moreover, many young Military recruits in the United States Armed Forces have the Ultimate Goal of earning the coveted title as a Scout Sniper and become a Hunter of Gunmen. In that quest, many will look at some legendary snipers as their role models.
One of them is certainly Chris Kyle. However, long before “The American Sniper” true story came out, the legend of Carlos Hathcock was already in the history books. There are many that share the belief that this honor belongs to ‘Carlos Hathcock the real American Sniper’.
The Vietnam War
Carlos Hathcock always had a passion for weapons. His main dream was to become a U.S Marine. He was a young recruit when he made the decision to enlist in 1959. Hathcock proved to be ahead of the other new recruits as the 17-year-old recruit had already developed excellent skills as he won several tournaments (including the Wimbledon Cup Shooting) in 1965. His unique skills were quickly noticed, and he was deployed as a military policeman in Vietnam the very next year.
He then joined the 1st Marine Division Sniper Platoon, stationed at Hill 55, South of Da Nang. It was here that he made a significant impact on the Vietnam War. It was at Hill 55 where he established himself as the Vietnam War's Deadliest American Sniper.
Hathcock’s Sniping reputation compared to Chris Kyle, with his number of confirmed kills is still disputed. According to the accounts of third parties, his total was around 90 kills. Yet, by Hathcock and his spotters, the count is somewhere between 300 and 400 kills.
However, Carlos Hathcock did not have the Modern-Day Warfare advantages that Chris Kyle had in the form of weapons such as the Knight's Armament Company SR-25 or the M24 SWS. On the contrary, he had to rely heavily on his instincts, camouflage and stalking skills. His tactical positioning attracted the attention of the high command of the NVA. The North Vietnamese Army even put a bounty of $30,000 on his head.
Also, contrary to Chris Kyle, he was not facing an insurgency only. But a well-trained North Vietnamese army which had at least a handful well-skilled snipers.
During one of those war days, Hathcock came in a duel with the NVA talismanic sniper known as the Cobra. The NVA opponent shot several US Marines with a goal of luring Hathcock out and he relinquished the challenge. Based on his testimony, it was a very competitive battle of cunning between two skillful snipers. However, Hathcock special crawling technique which is known as worming enabled him to switch his positioning. Moving on to the other side, enabled him to have the sun in his favor.
That is was the detrimental element as he noticed a small shimmer of light. Instantly he was aware that that is was the enemy NVA sniper’s scope and took the shot from 500 yards away. The result was a clean kill with Hathcock’s round penetrating through the enemy scope.
This Scout Sniper Shot remains to this present day as one of the most impressive achievements of any American sniper and has been made popular in Movies such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Sniper’ with the Actor Tom Berenger which shows a similar shot sequence taking place in each.
After more than a year in service and 85 recorded kills Hathcock decided to leave. However, that did not last long as after one week, he decided to go back.
In 1969, Hathcock returned to the battlefield in Vietnam and took command of a platoon of snipers. His second tour was much more short-lived than his first. Still, his impact on the Vietnam War cannot be disputed. He remained a prime model for many modern trained US Military Snipers.
Final Retirement and Legacy
Carlos Hathcock retired after a 500-pound mine struck the Armored Personal Carrier in which he was aboard. It was a tragic event as it changed his life forever and his presence on the battlefield. Even then he showed courage as an American Sniper where he saved a few Marines from the burning personnel carrier.
This ended his career as a sniper and his participation in the Vietnam War.
Nevertheless, this American sniper legend was still able to contribute. He had a crucial role in the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School in Quantico, Va.
Unfortunately, around 1975, his health began deteriorating at a fast pace due to Multiple Sclerosis. He remained a fiercely admiring and inspiring figure for many of the students at the Sniper School in Quantico.
His influence was detrimental for the development of many student snipers or PIGs (Professional Instructed Gunmen). All in all, his legacy as a real American Sniper hero remains strong to this present day.
His status as an Efficient Hunter of Gunmen, he will remain a role model for the next generation of US Military Snipers. Carlos Hathcock truly fought for his country.